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Simon Fraser Lodge is first long-term care facility in north to contract out health care

WITH ONLY a few hours notice, 50 people turned out to an early afternoon rally Thursday, July 3, to protest contracting-out plans at Prince George’s Simon Fraser Lodge - a privately-run, publicly-funded long-term facility that’s poised to lay off 140 health care workers who are members of the Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE).

As the workers and their supporters marched up and down in front of the Lodge, several residents came out to join in the protest, picking up HEU flags and signs to wave at passers by. One resident spontaneously took hold of a blow horn to express his disappointment and hurt at the Lodge’s decision “to fire my family.”

Several health care workers spoke to the crowd about the importance of keeping public health care intact at Simon Fraser Lodge, which is home to more than 130 residents. They also appealed to the administration to seek alternatives to contracting out and to recognize the importance of maintaining quality services for the seniors they serve.

“Why throw out a long-time, dedicated health care team that’s been part of the lives of residents and their families for many, many years when we’re more than willing to look for a solution?” asked local HEU Chair Cyndie Stevens.

Later that evening, HEU members held a meeting with more than 30 family members to answer their questions, hear their concerns, and invite them to join in the struggle to protect public health care and keep dedicated workers on the job. Their first action is a family-led petition campaign to seek support for quality resident care.

Simon Fraser Lodge, which is owned by the multinational Buron Health Care, a subsidiary of Buron Construction, is the first long-term care home in the north to contract out its health care team. Workers affected include housekeeping, laundry, dietary, recreation, maintenance and care aides.